Thursday, July 16, 2009

Meet your CWA Dagger winners, plus a question for readers

The Crime Writers' Association in the UK presented its International Dagger, Short Story Dagger, Dagger in the Library and Debut Dagger awards tonight in London. (See information on the short-listed titles at the CWA Web site.) The CWA was also to announce its short lists for the Gold (the big prize), John Creasey (New Blood) and Ian Fleming Steel Daggers, about which more later.

Up for the International Dagger for best crime, thriller, suspense or spy novel translated into English for UK publication were:

  • Karin Alvtegen, Shadow, translated by McKinley Burnett
  • Arnaldur Indriðason, The Arctic Chill, translated by Bernard Scudder and Victoria Crib
  • Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played with Fire, translated by Reg Keeland
  • Jo Nesbø, The Redeemer, translated by Don Bartlett
  • Johan Theorin, Echoes from the Dead, translated by Marlaine Delargy
  • Fred Vargas, The Chalk Circle Man, translated by Siân Reynolds
Other short-listed authors whose names have popped up at Detectives Beyond Borders include Sean Chercover, Colin Cotterill, R.J. Ellory, Ariana Franklin and Peter James.
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Congratulations to the winners, thanks to Ali Karim for his live Twitter updates, and, on a personal note, an expression of amazement at how quickly the presentations went. At the Oscars, the winner for sound engineering in a short foreign-language animated film would be still be thanking his wife, his producers, God, and the good people of his hometown.
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And now, your opinions, please. What was the biggest Dagger surprise? That five of the six short-listed International Dagger books were from Nordic countries? That the one non-Nordic entrant won? That French novels have won every International Dagger? That three of those have gone to a woman named Fred?

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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17 Comments:

Blogger Dorte H said...

Well, it was not a great surprise that a woman won. They have done well within the genre for generations.
The other questions are difficult to answer as I haven´t read Vargas´ books, but most reviews I have read agree that this is not her best effort which is why I assumed it would be a Scandinavian winner :)

July 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm quite sure one would have no trouble find of runs of four or more years in which men had won a given award; I was having a bit fun with that question.

The voters just must love Fred Vargas (In fact, though it would likely be easy to find out, I'm unsure if the judging panels are the same from year to year.)

Vargas' victory in a year when the weight of Nordic contenders seemed overwhelming might have the salutary effect of reminding we readers to think less about waves and fads and categories, and more about the individual books. Among Scandinavian authors, for instance, I don't think Jo Nesbo has a lot in common with Hakan Nesser other than that their names contain diacritical characters unavailable on my keyboard.

July 16, 2009  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I will contact you by email Peter as I have got myself in hot water for expressing blunt opinions in the past.

July 16, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I shall respect your confidence. I'll repeat what I wrote to you privately: that I have always been surprised that the winners are chosen by a panel that small, and that celebrity and awards can be dangerous things, compelling readers to take sides when there is really no need.

July 16, 2009  
Blogger Kiwicraig said...

Seems a little bit of a surprise considering a recent readers survey I saw ranked Vargas' book dead last out of the six finalists. I haven't read it yet, so couldn't comment other than to say it is 'interesting' that the judges appear to keep going back to the same author repeatedly... despite some cracking good books from others.

July 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the comment. Unless my memory fails me, I don't remember your having commented here before. Welcome.

It's hard for me to judge. Karin Alvtegen is the only one of the authors with whose work I am unfamiliar, and I am well prepared to believe that any of the books would have been a worthy winner. I think I was a little higher on Vargas' book than were some of my friends in the blogosphere. Perhaps some commentators were simply suffering from Vargas fatigue after she had won two of the three previous International Daggers.

July 17, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Well, it's possible that this particular configuration of judges just really happens to like Fred Vargas, and it's also possible that there were so many Scandinavian worthies that they somehow had the dismal effect of cancelling each other out.

I'm sorry that we don't get to hear your thoughts here, Uriah, but you know best. Don't want to get you in trouble.

As with so many such awards type of things, the list of nominees is actually much more exciting than the anticlimactic moment of declaring a winner. Nominees mean we get to recognize and debate and learn about a whole host of people, and winning is about someone else determining the best of the lot. So, while, I certainly send out a big huzzah to that Noir at the Bar denizen Sean Cherchover, my real aim is to read more books by people on this fine list.

July 17, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

Sorry, Sean. That was one too many 'h's.

July 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I neglected to consider that obvious possibility. Such a situation would be analogous to two players' from the same sports team being considered contenders for their league's most valuable player award, dividing the voters' support, and letting a candidate from another team sneak in. And speculation is probably just as fruitful in this case as it is when sports writers fill their idle column inches.

Yes, the achievement lies in making it onto the shortlist, I'd say. And I'm quite sure Sean Chercover will appreciate your huzzahs or hosannas no matter how many h's, z's or n's they include.

July 17, 2009  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Seanag, I think you put my thoughts in a much more diplomatic manner than I would have managed when you stated that "this particular configuration of judges just really happens to like Fred Vargas".

July 17, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

What I'm unsure I've ever known is how the shortlists are determined. Perhaps that particular configuration of judges just really happens to like Nordic writers. But remember: It's no dosgrace to rank third, fourth, fifth or sixth on a list of the year's best books.

July 17, 2009  
Blogger Reg said...

It would be interesting to see the rankings. As I have suggested elsewhere, there 1) ought to be more than 3 judges, including possibly a UK author and a UK translator, and 2) they ought to be resident in the UK, not Paris.

July 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder how many judges there are at the prvious stage, where the eligible books are winnowed down to a short list. Three does seem a small number for the final judging.

July 22, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

I don't know if this came up here already, but I just learned today that Chalk Circle Man is actually Vargas's first novel--it's only that it's a new translation. Awards or not, I do think it's the place that I will start with the series.

July 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I discussed the question of out-of-order translations recently with someone in the publishing business. (I'm not being coy; I don't remember who my interlocutor was.) I was told that English-language publishers will choose the book they think will sell best and then, if it does well, may go back and publish translations of earlier books.

I'm not sure the order in which you read Fred Vargas matters much. Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand, which comes later in the series, offers an opening chapter that is a fine contrast of Adamsberg and Danglard and is thus a good place to start. And be aware that The Three Evangelists, which also won an International Dagger, is not part of the Adamsberg series, though there is some crossover of characters.

July 22, 2009  
Blogger seanag said...

The review I read, was saying that it clears up some of the mysteries of what is rather convoluted storyline.

My v word, rather unbelievably, is 'mischron'.

July 22, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Mischron is a marvelous v-word for a discussion of out-of-order translations. It would be even better for science fiction, though.

I would say that rather than clearing up mysteries, The Chalk Circle Man give their mysterious origins. The book certainly does offer a few origins, but you may safely start the series with any of the books, I'd say.

July 22, 2009  

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